Editorial Notes
Spring 2004
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark

The bourgeoisie is perhaps the most influential class ‑ and aesthetic - in American popular culture. But defining what is bourgeois in the 21st century is a lot harder than defining what is not. In this issue we use bourgeois as a means to frame more important cultural questions on class, social status, money, and power. In typical Black Book fashion, we've allowed the artists, writers, and subjects involved to address and interpret the theme as they see it. Jay‑Z (cover story, page 112) discusses his influence on hip‑hop and what he describes as "the browning of America." In Los Angeles, writer Meghan Daum (page 102) discovers that rich and poor alike can now play "bougie dress‑up," thanks to the democracy of style. Through her graphic photographs, artist Catherine Opie (profiled on page 86) has traced the evolution of lesbian fringe culture from the margins to the bourgeois mainstream.

At Black Book we view the struggle between the classes, for status, money, and power, as a facet of living in America, with all the good, bad, and ugly things that go with it. Aspiring to be part of the leisure class (the bourgeoisie) is at the heart of the American Dream, but it's also what makes it so flawed. After all, money is not a panacea, and communities can't survive on malls alone. In this celebrity‑obsessed, get-rich‑quick era, one has to wonder if our society is living on borrowed time, and whether ‑ as Argentina discovered (see page 178)‑ we'll reap the just desserts of our hubris.

Artist’s Interpretation of bourgeois
Mary Ellen Mark, Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 1993